Saturday 6 June is the 3rd annual Empty the Tanks initiative which this year will see 64 events taking place in 20 countries around the world including two in the UK in London and Manchester.
Thousands of British travel companies contribute to the sad lives of captive whales and dolphins in marine parks around the world by continuing to sell packages millions of British tourists that include trips to places like Sea World.
To date, only one company, STA Travel, has officially announced that it is no longer promoting trips to marine parks housing captive cetaceans.
So as part of Empty the Tanks in the UK this year, Earthrace Conservation are asking your company to consider taking a brave step forward by introducing a policy that will remove the sale and promotion to your customers of holidays that include tickets to marine parks holding captive cetaceans.
If your company continues to profit from the sale of tickets to marine parks, then Earthrace Conservation hope you will at least take note of what that decision costs the thousands of whales and dolphins taken from the wild, or bred in captivity.
An estimated 5,000 cetaceans have already died in captivity, 110 in the last two years alone. With captive breeding programmes remaining a game of ‘hit and miss’ and the numerous risks to adult cetaceans in captivity, more are dying every year.
Among official causes of death amongst captive whales and dolphins are pneumonia, hepatitis, lung-worms, kidney infections, septicaemia, anaphylaxis, gastroenteritis, aortic rupture, drowning, uterine haemorrhage, candidiasis (oral or vaginal thrush), cerebral haemorrhage, nephritis, animal attack, pancreatitis, asphyxiation, pulmonary oedema, hepatic necrosis and cardiac tamponade. Source: Marine Mammal Inventory Reports submitted by US marine parks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Dolphins in captivity have much shorter life expectancies than their wild counterparts where they can live up to 40-50 years. The average life span of a captive-bred dolphin is only four years.
A soon to be published paper by experts John Jett and Jeffrey Ventre, ‘Captive killer whale (Orcinus orca) survival’, reveals from survival rate analyses on 201 captive killer whales that the overall median survival estimate was 6.1 yrs. Wild orcas can live upwards of 60-90 years. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12225/abstract
These animals are too large to keep in captivity. US regulations for marine parks like Sea World and the Miami Seaquarium, state that up to two killer whales can be held in a tank which measures only a minimum of 14.63 metre/48ft with a depth of 3.66 metres/12 feet (615m3). These animals can dive upwards of 300ft in the wild and will travel up to 100 miles a day. Captive orca Tilikum is kept at Sea World Orlando in Florida. He is 22′ long. No tank will ever be able to replicate a whale or dolphin’s natural life in the wild.
Marine parks regularly separate orca mothers from their calves. In the wild these animals would stay together as a family, but in captivity trainers remove the young and send them to other parks for profitable reasons.
The captivity industry is linked to the annual dolphin slaughters in Taiji, Japan. Considering that a live dolphin captured and trained in Japan when sold internationally, can fetch anywhere up to £65,000, it is undeniable that the annual Taiji dolphin hunt in Japan and the lucrative multibillion dollar captivity industry are directly linked. When you sell a ticket to a dolphin show or to for a swim with dolphin encounter, you are supporting and encouraging the Taiji atrocities to continue.
Despite assurances from US marine parks that they no longer source cetaceans from the wild, the Georgia Aquarium is heading a consortium of five other US and Canadian marine parks, is still attempting to get an import permit for 18 wild caught beluga whales from Russia to integrate into their breeding stocks.
Russia is the only country in the world that trades in wild caught orca and beluga whales with a beluga whale fetching around £59,000 and an orca a whopping £10 million. A new film being made in Russia, ‘Born Free’, following in the footsteps of ‘Blackfish’, will be released soon that will blow the lid of the Russian cetacean captivity trade and have repercussions for anyone involved in, or associated with, the captivity business world-wide.
There are now many hundreds of wild whale and dolphin watching companies operating around the world, many in the places where there are also marine parks. Organisations like the World Cetacean Alliance are working with many of these companies to develop responsible whale and dolphin watching techniques and ensure high standards.
In comparison to seeing a captive whale or dolphin through glass, in a tank or in a sea pen, a truly natural encounter with a wild cetacean is a breathtaking and more importantly, safe, kind and ecologically-sound experience that will never be forgotten. It is the only way in which a human should be allowed to view a whale or dolphin.